The U.S. Women’s National Team closes out its three-game slate at the 2021 WNT Summer Series, presented by AT&T 5G on June 16, taking on Nigeria at brand-new Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas. Broadcast coverage of the match between the USA – the top-ranked team in the world and the champions of Concacaf – and Nigeria – the reigning champions of Africa – begins at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on ESPN2, with official kickoff time slated for 9:08 p.m. ET/8:08 p.m. CT.
Here are Five Things to Know about Wednesday’s opponent: the Super Falcons.
NIGERIA, USA CLOSE OUT SUMMER SERIES IN AUSTIN
Nigeria head coach Randy Waldrum called in 26 players for the WNT Summer Series, which marks the Super Falcon’s first action since a two-game set in Turkey in February of 2021 – a 1-0 win vs. Uzbekistan and a 9-0 victory over Equatorial Guinea.
The side which will face the USA features players from across the globe, highlighted by star striker Asisat Oshoala, who is fresh off winning the UEFA Champions League – and the treble - with Barcelona. Oshoala has experience playing professionally in England for Liverpool and Arsenal and in China for Dailan and is the first African woman to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League. The 26-year-old has been named the African Women’s Footballer of the year on four occasions and was named the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2015 after helping Arsenal capture the FA Cup.
Nigeria’s roster also features several players with connections to soccer in the USA, including former U.S. youth international Toni Payne and NJ/NY Gotham FC forward Ifeoma Onumonu, who previously played for U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski when they were both part of the Seattle Reign organization in the NWSL.
NIGERIA WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3):Yewande Balogun (California Storm, USA), Sunday Etim (Abia Angels), Tochukwu Oluehi (CD Pozoalbense, ESP)
DEFENDERS (8):Blessing Demehin (Sunshine Queens FC), Onome Ebi (FC Minsk, BLR), Onyinechi Ibe (Bayelsa Queens FC), Chidinma Okeke (Madrid CFF, ESP), Akudo Ogbonna (Sunshine Queens FC), Glory Ogbonna (Edo Queens), Nicole Payne (West Virginia University, USA), Salome Zogg (FC Zurich Frauen, SUI)
MIDFIELDERS (4):Toni Payne (Sevilla FC, ESP), Rita Chikwelu (Madrid CFF, ESP), Amanda Mbadi (Bayelsa Queens FC), Celine Ottah (Bayelsa Queens FC)
FORWARDS (11):Charity Adule (SD Edibars FC, ESP), Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid FC, ESP), Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash Reserves, USA), Roosa Ariyo (Tikkyurilian Palloseura, FIN), Ebinemiere Bokiri (Bayelsa Queens FC), Obianujuwan Ikechukwu (River Angels), Gift Monday (FC Robo Queens), Ijeoma Okoronkwo (Houston Dash Reserves, USA), Ifeoma Onumonu (NJ/NY Gotham FC, USA), Francisca Ordega (Levante UD, ESP), Asisat Oshoala (FC Barcelona, ESP)
SUPER FALCONS SOAR IN THRILLER VS. PORTUGAL
After falling to Jamaica, 1-0, on June 10 in the opening match of the WNT Summer Series, Nigeria responded with a spirited performance in its second match, playing Portugal to a 3-3 draw on Sunday night in Houston.
The match featured Portugal scoring twice inside the first 34 minutes, before Nigeria pulled one back just before halftime with a goal by Michelle Alozie, who plays for the Houston Dash reserves, in the 44th minute. Portugal would score again in the early stages of the second half, but Nigeria fought back for two more goals, including netting the equalizer in the dying seconds of second-half stoppage time.
Nigeria made it 3-2 in the 52md minute when Rasheedt Ajibade raced down the right side and crossed to the near post. Portugal defender Diana Gomes was trying to hold off the charging Nigeria forward AsisatOshoala but the ball hit her foot as she fell and plowed into her own net.
The tying goal came deep into the six minutes of stoppage time when Nigerian forward Gift Monday picked off a back pass. She then played a short pass to former U.S. youth international Payne who flew into the left side of box on the dribble and cut a short pass back to Ajibade who slid to knock the ball into the right corner, sparking a wild celebration from the Super Falcons. The final whistle blew seconds later.
HISTORY AGAINST THE USA
The June 16 meeting will be the sixth meeting all-time between the USA and Nigeria, and the first ever meeting between the teams in a friendly competition. The teams have met five times previously, all at world championship events – four times at the Women’s World Cup (1999, 2003, 2007, 2015) and once in the Olympics (2000).
The USA won all of those matches, but none were easy, aside from perhaps the 7-1 win in group play of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, but that match saw the Super Falcons take a lead just two minutes into the game before the Americans exploded for five half goals and two in the second.
The USA and Nigeria have not met for six years, but the most recent two matches – in group play at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2015 Women’s World Cup, both ended in 1-0 wins for the USA, with the goal coming in 2007 from Lori Chalupny in the first minute and in 2015 from Abby Wambach, which turned out to be her last World Cup goal and second to last goal of her 184-goal career. Four players on the USA’s current training camp roster saw time in that 2015 World Cup matchup against Nigeria: Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe.
Overall, the USWNT has a perfect record against CAF opposition, winning all seven of its matches against Nigeria (5) and South Africa (2).
Nigeria is by far the most successful Women’s National Team in Africa, having won the continental title 11 times and appeared in every Women’s World Cup ever contested as well as three Olympic Games. In fact, Nigeria joins the United States, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Japan as the only countries to qualify for every World Cup. Nigeria’s best result at the World Cup came in 1999, reaching the quarterfinal round. The Super Falcons also reached the quarterfinals at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Nigeria failed to qualify for the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, losing to Ivory Coast on away goals in the third round of CAF Olympic Qualifying. Zambia will instead be representing the confederation at the upcoming Olympics in Japan.
Nigeria has also seen some success at the youth international levels, finishing runner-up at both the 2010 and 2014 Under-20 FIFA Women’s World Cups. In 2014, Nigeria fell to Germany, 1-0, in extra time of the championship game, though Oshoala collected Golden Ball and Golden Boot honors as the top player and top scorer, respectively, of the tournament.
Nigeria is coached by long-time American college coach Randy Waldrum, who is also currently the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Waldrum was named as Nigeria’s head coach in May of 2020 and previously served as head coach for the Houston Dash in the NWSL from 2014-2017 and for the Trinidad & Tobago Women’s National Team from 2014-2016.
Waldrum also led the University of Notre Dame to two NCAA titles during his 15-year tenure in South Bend, Indiana from 1999-2013. The Texas native also did a short stint as the U.S. Under-23 WNT head coach.
One of Waldrum’s assistant coaches is Lauren Gregg, who was one of Tony DiCicco’s two assistant coaches for the U.S. Women’s National Team during the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and was the interim head coach for the USWNT for three games in 2000. Gregg also served as an assistant coach for the USA at the 1991 Women’s World Cup and 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.